Former owner of Midwest Tractor Sales, Tim Emerick, put a whole new spin on “putting yourself in your customer’s shoes.” Emerick grew up in the equipment industry, with Midwest Tractor Sales being a family-owned business. Now, instead of selling tractors, combines and machinery, Emerick is wearing the customer shoes – literally – using the equipment on his Illinois corn, soybean and wheat farming operation.
He still primarily does business with Midwest Tractor Sales for his farm equipment needs. Emerick says he actually hired the new owner as a salesperson when he still owned Midwest Tractor Sales and they have a long-term relationship. However, he says like many equipment customers, he makes his decisions based on great service.
“Service is a phrase that gets overused,” says Emerick. “When I was a dealer, I always thought that customers weren’t always just looking for service, because I thought it usually comes down to the price of equipment. But customer service is a major factor. The number one reason I do business with the dealership I use is because they provide me with fantastic service.”
Emerick says that it’s not just the dealership’s owner who takes good care of him, but all of the dealership’s employees. Everyone, including salespeople, the parts department and the receptionist, continue to grow and maintain their relationship with him, which is why he gives them his business.
“I spent my whole life in sales and so I believe in customer service and I believe in relationships,” explains Emerick.
He has also passed those beliefs down to his children, explaining that if a business isn’t willing to provide great customer service, there will be someone else out there who is willing to provide it. He also explains that in his role as a farmer, he and his family focus on providing great customer service to their landowners.
“We still use that great customer service aspect in our business,” says Emerick. “At the end of the day, it is service that is going to make us the most money, and that goes both ways. We need someone who is going to take good care of us so we can do a good job, and pass that along.”
Good customer service is made up of many different facets. For example, basic courtesy, returning phone calls, being thorough and following up are all things Emerick says he looks for. As dealerships get larger, Emerick says sometimes the quality of customer service may suffer.
“You’re still dealing with local customers,” says Emerick. “So, just because a dealership is larger, that doesn’t mean you can’t build relationships with the local people.”
He also points out that most equipment today is mechanically sound. He says about half of his service calls to his dealership are for technology-related issues, meaning customers rely more than ever on their dealership. Additionally, Emerick says he’s looking for ways to become more efficient.
“I use my dealer to help me solve problems, become more efficient and improve my operation,” he says.
His current farming experience gives him a unique perspective as to what equipment customers are looking for. Emerick stresses that building relationships with customers takes time. He says the relationship won’t be built on the first sales call, but asking the customer what you can do to help can be the foundation of a strong relationship.
“If I was trying to get my business, the minute I saw something that was new and revolutionary, I would come and show me,” says Emerick. “I think we are entering into a period where great customer service is going to be what separates the dealers. It’s a two way street and there needs to be mutual respect between the customer and dealers.”